Roadside Weeds

I love flower gardens.  But I’m not much of a gardener.  Unless I can eat it, I’m not likely to tend it.  So I enjoy flowers wherever I can find them.  During this season of the year, I find my eye traveling to the habitat referred to in my wildflower field guides as waste places – the roadsides.  It’s fun to be able to watch the roadside and click off 20 or more species of flowers on my way to work.  I joke with my fellow naturalists about including my lists in my someday book:  Nature at 55.  (That’s 55 miles per hour, not 55 years old, by the way; talk about distracted driving!)

Wanna test yourself? Get out a sheet of paper and number it from 1 to 24. Some are (admittedly) tricky, because I’m not showing you the whole plant! See how you do! (Answers at the bottom.)

1 –

2 –

3 –

4 –

5 –

6 –

7 –

8 –

9 –

10 –

11 –
#11a #11b

12 –

13 –
#13 #13 - also comes in yellow

14 –
#14 - also comes in white

15 –

16 –

17 –

18 –

19 –

20 –

21 –

22 –

23 –

24 –

Bonus Question! Numbers 2, 5, 10, 12 and 23 all have something in common. What is it?

For answers, click:

1 – Bird’s Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
2 – Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)*
3 – Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)
4 – Chicory (Cihorium intybus)
5 – Common Evening-Primrose (Oenothera biennis)*
6 – Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
7 – Common St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum)
8 – Cow Vetch (Vicia cracca) aka Tufted Vetch
9 – Crown Vetch (Coronilla varia) aka Axseed
10 – Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus)*
11 – Knapweed – spotted and brown (Centaurea maculosa and jacea)
12 – Milkweed (Asclepias sp.)*
13 – Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria)
14 – Musk Mallow (Malva Moschata)
15 – Ox-eye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum)
16 – Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)
17 – Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
18 – Teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris)
19 – White Clover (Trifolium repens)
20 – White Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba) aka Melilot
21 – Wild Madder (Galium molluga)
22 – Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)
23 – Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)*
24 – Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus officinalis)

Bonus Answer: #2 Black-eyed Susan, #5 Common Evening-Primrose, #10 Milkweed, #12 Fleabane and #23 Yarrow are the only ones on the list that are native plants. All the rest are imports from Europe.

Makes me very curious what the landscape looked like before Europeans… What native plants colonized disturbed soil before?… Hmmm….

20 thoughts on “Roadside Weeds

  1. I hope you do that Nature at 55 book someday. No joke! I’ve been looking for a roadside flower ID book. In addition to close-up pics, it should include what the flowers looks like from a distance going 55 mph. I’ve often wondered what was growing on the side of the road, but it’s not always convenient or safe to stop to take a closer look.

  2. since i am so surrounded by “waste places”, your post had me chuckling! out of need, i have become a lover of these “roadside attractions”! it is particularly telling to see how well fleabane grows in the 1 inch channel between the asphalt and sidewalk curbs!

    • Oh, yes… and Bird’s Foot Trefoil, too… I’m about to post another photo I took on my hike last weekend where it and Fleabane are pushing right up through the asphalt… Tenacious little dears.

  3. If it wasn’t for ‘weeds’ I wouldn’t have a garden at all!! These are beautiful flowers to me. Interesting that so few are native! ~karen

  4. I enjoyed taking the test. I must admit that I didn’t do too well. But I got a few. Surprised to know how few of the plants are native. Have you ever wrote a post, for beginning amateur naturalists,.on identification guides for various common subjects i.e. birds, wildflowers, reptiles etc. I think it would be informative to know what the professionals use for identifying. — barbara

  5. I recognised many of those plants, but could only name about 6 or 7. Nonetheless, I really enjoy the photos, and number 16 in particular! Thank you for posting them.

  6. Woohoo! I got 21 our of 24, and haven’t seen the three I missed growing here (but they probably do). One of those three was Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), which I saw plenty of this week as I was driving down the New York Turnpike. Thanks for the id and for the quiz!

  7. I did better than I thought I would. Missed knapweed, wild madder and moth mullein, none of which I think we have around here.

    I thought Black-eyed Susans and yarrow were also native?

  8. I live in Michigan – and totally enjoy the native “flowers” along the roadsides as well. I have an odd item that popped up (I think by themselves – but not 100% sure either) in a flower bed this year… and I recall these things from my childhood only because my dad used to go out and get them from alongside the road and take along a can of spray paint – which he would spray them with at first – and that held them all together – and he would bring them home and mom would use them in dried flower decorations in the house. The plant looks “weedy” to me – but then it seems to get a little yellow flower on it – and within a few hours (no joke) that flower turns into a large brown fluff ball (similar to dandelion process but MUCH larger). I can get pictures if needed – any idea what these things are? I’ve been watching the roadside and haven’t seen any out there – just these in my yard. Maybe my mom coming back from heaven to return a childhood memory to me? Who knows…. 🙂

  9. I just emailed the pics – hope you can tell me what this is. No flowers on it tonight – will try for flowers in the morning on my way out the door to work!

  10. I love your photos and I am trying to take better plant pix. Please help….
    What camera do you use? And what lens do you like and use for your closeups like the ones you show above?
    The test was great.. I did better than I expected.
    Thanks and keep up your wonderful writings!

    • These photos come from a variety of sessions… so… I’ve used a variety of cameras and lenses for these. (I’m short on time right now… I’ll try to give you more complete answer later…)

  11. Thank you, Jennifer! I found your “Roadside Weeds” posting while working on an essay and needing to identify that images of flowers in my memory from a farmer’s former grazing field adjacent to our Michigan backyard in my childhood. Much appreciated!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s